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"Then he looked over at me, and y'know what he said? "You can't handle the cape." And he took it! He took my cape, Skeets! Do you know how it feels whenSuperman tells you you can't handle a cape? Not good..."
Capes have the obvious effect of making the wearer look larger and more imposing. Thus artists often use them as a way to make characters look Badass. Just look at Batman over there. He wouldn't look half as awesome without his cape.
The reasons for this are many. The color might provide a fetching counterpoint to the rest of their clothes, or else blend with them to give the wearer a dynamic silhouette. It may make them look even bigger than they really are. In the right conditions they can wave in the wind and look dramatic and striking. Lack of wind can be accommodated with a Cape Swish.
But the main reason for this is that in the days of circuses, the strongmen often wore tights and a cape, thus the association with toughness in characters. The trope was then grandfathered into the present day by Superheroes.
This can apply to any character, whether it be a hero, sidekick, villain, and it doesn't even have to be a superhero setting.
This can also count if the actual capes have some sort of abilities. Thus the capes themselves are badass.
Often overlaps with Superheroes Wear Capes, All-Encompassing Mantle. Does not necessarily overlap with The Cape. May be used as an Improvised Parachute, but contrast Cape Snag.
Compare Badass Long Robe, Badass Longcoat, Black Cloak, Scarf of Asskicking, Caped Mecha, Ominous Opera Cape, Pimped Out Cape.
Fate Testarossa wears one, because she's sort of kinda like a villain. For a while. From a certain point of view. Now she's the only heroic character with a cape (unless you count her good-turned Evil Knockoff).
Quattro wears a sleeved, fur-trimmed cape, which makes her a little more imposing with more authority as the last villain to be defeated.
Getter Robo: Getter-1's Getter Wing ability is a dramatically unfurling red cape that allows it to fly. Buster Shield is an even more dramatic cape that DEFLECTS LASER BEAMS.
A humongous version of said cape was also used by the Super TTGL in The Movie. And by humongous, we mean the biggest damn cape ever conceived of in fiction or otherwise.
Crossbone Gundam features Gundam-sized capes that provide two practical purposes; stealth [the capes are black, most of the series takes place in space] and a special coating that lets them absorb a few beam hits before being destroyed, sort of like extra ablative armour.
In Digimon V-Tamer 01, an Omnimon effectively weaponised his cape by throwing it in the face of his opponents, blinding them long enough to utterly thrash them.
Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z, one of the best examples of this can be found in movie special 8, especially when Piccolo's heroic save of Gohan from certain death(at the time)
Piccolo's cape is attached to heavy weighted shoulder pads. He uses it for training and takes it off to fight. Gohan gets one just like it for the Cell Games. Later, in the film "Broly: Second Coming", Krillin wears Piccolo's cape.
Garlic Jr in the ,you guessed it, Garlic Jr Saga.
Éclair from Kiddy Grade combines badassery and gracefulness by Roof Hopping while wearing one, as seen in a flashback.
While D of Vampire Hunter D is already a badass alone with his skill, his cape only doubles, if not triples that level of coolness. And Meirlink from the second movie deserves a mention as well. He must have studied Batman, because not only could he glide with the thing, he blocked a freaking sword strike with it!
Space Pirate Captain Harlock wears a cape. Oh boy does he ever. It's often very hard to tell what ratio of man to cape he is, but he's definitely all pirate.
Adol Christin gets a badass cape near the beginning of the anime Ys II: Castle in the Heavens. What makes it so badass? Well, for one, it's purple. Second, it lets him use magic - specifically, shooting fireballs from his hand. Turns out he uses this more than he does his sword.
Sogeking. In fact, the cape is why Luffy instantly knows he's a hero.
Diamante deserves special mention as his cape is a solid steel sheet, made to wave in the wind thanks to his Devil Fruit power.
Integra from Hellsing, but only for formal occasions. Suits her, she looks like a nice lady from the outside but will kick your butt with her fencing swords.
Kain Blueriver from Lost Universe believes this to be the case about himself and he's obviously trying to invoke the trope, though he's regularly mocked for it by others. His partner, Milly, in particular isn't shy about pointing out that it just gets in the way as a Trouble Shooter. At one point in the dub, he even mentions Captain Harlock by name.
Mewtwo, in the Pokémon anime. And goddamn is it awesome.
Dr. Black Jack keeps a lot of his medical tools in his cape, such as scalpels that he can whip out and throw at people.
Rurouni Kenshin: Hiko Seijuro's cape helped make him into a badass, even during peacetime. There are springs at the shoulders that exerts a counter-pressure on his body in order to maintain not only his strength, but the Hiten Mitsurugi style so he won't release all of its power on enemies.
The Quincy in Bleach have white capes except for The Emperor of the Vandenreich Yhwach who wears a black one.
In SaintSeiya most of the higher rank characters wear a cape above their armor (clothes), the most prominent examples being the Gold Saints and Poseidon's Marine generals.
In Magic Knight Rayearth, the final evolution of the girls' armor (which is no longer uniform but themed to their particular Mashin) gains a very long cape. Although Part II gives them a basic matching armor again, they transform into their caped outfits whenever they use the Mashin.
Maria Cadenzavna Eve from Senki Zesshou Symphogear G has a black cape that she uses as a weapon and it can alter its size. The cape is also a manifestation of her inner weakness and it deflects attacks.
Kunzite in Sailor Moon, the only one of the Four Kings to wear a cape. It's never remarked upon, but it looks cool. All four Kings wear them in their "Endymion's Guardians" incarnations in the manga.
Cloak from Cloak & Dagger, of course, is a cloak rather than a cape. In fact he's nothing but a cloak. He's also otherworldly, dark, and conflicted.
Not to mention a name and even a tribe: Leetha of the Seventh Tribe of K. She is the entire outfit, the cape being only one of her bodyparts.
Spider-Man: Mysterio usually has a purple cape to go with his 'fishbowl' and green outfit, which both helps negate the cheesiness of the headgear and let him look more, well, mysterious. He's also got things attached to hold it on that have eyes on them.
Spider-Man 2099 even has a cape with a tattered webbing motif. It's not just for looks - he can glide with it, despite it being maybe three square feet of fabric.
Batman wore his cape this way long before it was popular.
Robinalways wears a cape. Nightwing doesn't. The presence of a cape has been given several justifications in canon beyond the theatrics; it contains armor, allows gliding and you can grab someone who's falling from the roof of a train.
Nightwing: Huh. Makes me rethink the cape issue.
Batman Forever had Batman covering himself with his fire-proofed cape in order to shield himself from the flames of a burning building that Two-Face trapped him in. Only Batman could have pulled this off.
Batman's cape is so awesome that it has the ability to change size. (Particularly evident in Batman: The Animated Series) When he's investigating for clues inside, the cape comes down to his knees, but when posing on a rooftop dramatically, it grows longer than his whole body. Now that's badass!
In one adventure with Arsenal, Batman shielded them from an explosion with his cape -which was made of triple-weave kevlar.
Superman duh. Not so much badass as just plain awesome, though. Plus, in some incarnations, it's said that the entire planet of Krypton wore badass capes.
The Martian Manhunter usually sports an impressive cape. He can't be said to wear it because it, like all his clothes, is a part of his body, justifying why it never gets caught on anything.
In Johnny Saturn, imposing characters such as Utopian and Tactical have badass capes. Elect, the original superhero, wears a cape over a cloak! Of course, he is the source for a great many characters in the Johnny Saturn/Spire City World.
Phantom Lady wears a green one that contrasts her bright yellow bathing suit. Pretty badass, if not much for stealth.
The Demon Etrigan wears a cape that gets extra cool points for being tattered and ripped on the ends.
Storm from X-Men most of the time. Her capes are usually also attached to her bracelets, to the point where it's practically a definitive piece of her design. Since her flight powers are based on wind, the cape presumably helps provide lift.
As did Doctor Strange, with the added cool factor that the cape granted flight powers.
As well as DC equivalent Doctor Fate. Both Fate and Strange's capes are often shown billowing about as though they're enchanted to fluctuate in size and length, which is likely for both characters.
Of course, one of the most famous cape-wearers in comicdom is Doctor Doom. The golden cape clasps he wears suggest it really is a cape rather than a cloak, and that the hood is not in fact part of it.
Subverted in Watchmen, where Hollis Mason recounts that Dollar Bill's cape got him killed: It was caught in a revolving door when he tried to prevent a bank robbery, making him an easy target for the gun-toting robbers. What makes it even more tragic is that the costume was designed by people sponsoring him for public appeal. Mason speculated that if he designed it himself he may have realized how bad an idea it was.
He also considered wearing one himself when he first became a masked vigilante, but found it got in the way.
Oddly, both Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice wore capes easily twice the length of Dollar Bill's, yet never seemed to suffer any consequences.
In Fables there's the Witching Cloak, which makes its wearer all but invulnerable, is (nearly) indestructible itself, and allows its wearer to teleport anywhere (even between worlds), carry huge loads, and change form.
Mister Miracle has a large green cape. The original MM costume was that of a circus performer, which explains its presence, but when Scott Free took up the mantle, his cape was for more than just looks. It's been an Improvised Parachute and a portable shield and shelter against all sorts of attacks. Its size means that it can be wrapped around the wearer (and maybe another person or two) to provide all-round protection if needed.
The Master of Magnetism, Magneto, rocks an imposing purple/red cape in almost every incarnation.
It seems that this is genetic; both of his magical descendants (His daughter, Scarlet Witch, and his grandson, Wiccan) rock dark-red cloaks/capes. (Wiccan's is a badass tattered cloak)
The Sentry wears a blue cape that tends to billow dramatically.
In Donjon, there is the Cloak of Fate - not so much a cape as a sort of robe, a rather worn-looking thing covered in a garish skull motif, which however is completely indestructible and shields its wearer from all harm.
Zita The Spacegirl. The title character isn't a superhero, but the cape is part of an outfit she acquires shortly after being transported to an alien planet.
Inverted in With Strings Attached. To hide his permanent metamorphosis into a muscular winged demigod, John gets a magical cloak that makes him look like his skinny normal self. It's mostly a pain in the ass for him, as it snags on things, it's hot, and it gets smelly.
Before that, he spent much of the adventure wearing an elven cloak like the rest of the Fellowship, but the cape on his King of Gondor getup is much more badass.
Etienne Navarre of Ladyhawke is the film's unequivocal hero, yet dresses like a stereotypical villain. Naturally, he looks extremely badass in his ensemble, and sports a magnificent flowing black cape with red lining to complete the look.
Dollars Trilogy: The Man With No Name's poncho is the definite western example.
The capes in Thor were specifically designed with badass billowing in mind, and it shows.
Man of Steel: Seems to be standard issue for Kryptonians of high rank as Jor-El, Zod and Faora are seen wearing some. And, of course, there's Superman himself.
Zod gets a special mention for his fur cape.
In The Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman's cape isn't just for making him look imposing. Made of a special "memory cloth" that can form ridgid shapes when electrified, Batman uses it as a hangglider (of sorts).
Magneto's in the X-Men films, as part of his supervillain outfit.
Weaponized in Tintin with pirate captain Red Rackham; in his Out of the Inferno introduction his cape catches fire, so he uses it against Sir Francis Haddock.
In Dracula Untold, Vlad's Armor features a bright red cape that he wears during his climb to the Elder Vampire's Tomb.
The eponymous Mistborn of the Mistborn trilogy wear these. They have all sorts of nifty adaptions that just make them so freaking awesome. They are the status symbol of the 'verse.
In Soon I Will Be Invincible, supervillain Dr Impossible admits that his cape gets in the way during the inevitable fight scene, and is uncomfortable in hot weather, but feels that the psychological advantage imparted by a dramatically billowing cape outweighs the disadvantages.
Erast Fandorin often wears a cape. It's nothing extraordinary, really; this is late 19th century Russia. Still, notable for the movie version of State Chancellor, wherein he uses said cape to catch bullets.
Dragaera's Morrolan e'Drien. Vlad thinks he just wears it to look cool, and frankly, he's probably right.
This is even more cool because they are enchanted so that they never become stained or dirty, including the mention that blood splattered on the cloaks during combat just flows off the fabric. This means that no matter how hard or dirty the fight, a Warden's cloak of office is always recognizable to ensure their authority.
Pontius Glaw from Eisenhorn, in his final "form", wears a cape so badass it's made of many, many small blades. When a Redshirt gets in the way of the cape, he... crumbles. Sort of.
Deconstructed in Simon R. Green's Hawk and Fisher novels, where the BadassBattle Couple are obliged to wear capes as part of their Watch uniforms; however, Hawk hates his because it gets in the way during fights. He puts up with wearing one for Fisher's sake, but seizes any plausible opportunity to "accidentally" abandon or destroy his (smothering fires, ditching it when it's pinned to the wall by a crossbow bolt, etc). A subversion, as going capeless doesn't diminish Hawk's Badass Quotient one bit.
In Starfighters of Adumar, Red Flight ends up wearing Adumari clothing and Wes Janson, the showman of the group, goes with a massive cape with glowing nebulous shapes on it. Later, in a fight, he whips it off and uses it to entangle his opponent's weapon, later grousing that he liked that cape. His friend assures him that they'll find him something even more flashy.
In The Shattered World, Kan Konar the cloakfighter is a Badassbecause of his cape. His fighting style is one that traditionally employs the cloak as both a weapon and a defense: it's got razor-sharp bone shards in its hems, blinding-bright phoenix feathers concealed in its lining, and a strangling-cord clasp. And that's just the start of what it's good for.
Luke Cahill of The 39 Clues gets one of these after he begins work as a royal advisor. It has no special powers, but adds to his menacing appearance.
The eponymous Cape of Mandator from Dennis Jürgensen's book. It holds a pocket dimension in its folds!
In Legacy The Tale Of The American Eagle it is standard fare for St. Theodore's protectors American Eagle and Sparrow, with the added benefit of being able to harden into a glider through use of electrical currents and smart fabric.
The Magna Defender could also count as a Legacy Character in series, the season was in anyway.
What, no love for Power Rangers Mystic Force? Six of them had capes in ranger form and the core five had them as part of their team uniforms.
In the Mork and Mindy episode 'Watcher of Earth,' an alien named Xerko came to Earth and challenged Mork to a battle. Before the battle, he put on a Badass Cape... only to tear it off in an exaggerated twirl.
A lot of characters in Game of Thrones wear them, including the Kingsguard, the Night's Watch, and a lot of characters from the North. Robb Stark stands out in particular, being a peerless general who wears a magnificent fur-lined cape in almost all of his scenes. He even dies wearing a particularly elegant one.
The Northmen have even an iconic style of capes and cloaks secured by belts crossing on chest. Nowadays, when you see these X-belts, you immediately think "Game of Thrones!".
The episode "Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse" in Father Ted has Bishop Brennan storming the house with his cape billowing excessively behind him after he recovers from a shock and realises that Ted kicked him earlier.
The video for Pink Floyd's song 'High Hopes' features … well, you can't doubt that cape's epic. Anyone know how they were able to keep cranes and such out of the shot? There's NO way that guy could walk in that thing without some help.
The PS3 version on the second HD rerelease collection has Terra's armor to suddenly gain it's cape at the end of the final battle of BBS, allowing it to retain in in the bonus battle in KH 2 HD without causing a continuity error.
Super Robot Wars Original Generation gives us the AussenseiterTrombe, a giant robot with an equally giant Badass Cape. One of its' attacks involves ripping the cape off and throwing it at an enemy to conceal their vision before blowing them away with its' twin hand cannons.
The Vysaga also wears one, complete with plenty of dramatic swirling and whatnot.
Legacy of Kain has both Kain, who in his Elder form wears his red symbol cape tied across his chest, and Raziel who, in a gruesome variation of the trope, has the remains of his ruined bat-wings hanging off his back.
Practically every Lord character in Fire Emblem has one, with few exceptions. There doesn't seem to be any particular purpose behind them, save for aesthetics.
Meta Knight of the Kirby series wears one that can turn into bat wings.
RuneScape has a variety of normal capes that every player can wear, but there are some special ones that stand out, like the Fire cape which is made out of lava and has its own animation, and is given to players who beat the second hardest boss in the entire game. Also it has the Skill capes, given to players who max the level in any skill, which has the ability to increase the skill level of the player who operates it to 100 temporarily, and come with their own emote.
Ezio in Assassin's Creed 2 has a cape that actually does something - it decreases his notoriety so he doesn't get in near as much trouble with the law.
Other capes include the Plain Cape which is just for looks and then there's the Medici Cape which sets infamy to 0 when you're in Florence or Tuscany; there's also another cape for Venice. Those three are all gotten at various points in the story. There are also, apparently two "secret" capes: one you only get during some festival; and the Auditore Cape, rewarded at the end of the Feather sidequest, which does the opposite of the others (that is, infamy is set to max in all cities).On a more practical note, it also helps to conceal most of his weaponry when he's walking in public.
Yo and Bo of Yo-Jin-Bo wear capes "because they are cool," and frequently mock Jin's fashion sense because he doesn't wear one.
Given the 'strongman' description above, is it any surprise to hear that Street Fighter's Zangief has an opening animation where he starts standing shrouded in a cape, then flings it away?
M. Bison wears a cape as well, which he sometimes wears during actual fights.
Utsuho from Touhou is a nuclear powered hell raven that wears a starry night cape over her wings. Fellow Final Boss Byakuren also wears a cape, if a considerably less mind-bending one. Then there's Wriggle, but, as a stage one boss, she's not exactly badass, with the cape mearly standing in for her insect wings.
From PC-98 land is Yumemi Okazaki, who wears a black and red cape.
Sekibanki wears a red cape and mantle large enough to obscure the tenuous connection between her head and neck.
Toyosatomimi no Miko wears one in Hopeless Masquerade.
Batman: Arkham Asylum. Not only does it look badass, it lets you glide, either to cover ground quickly or to kick someone in the face and you can slap someone in the face with it to stun them.
Big Bad vampire Night of Wallachia from the Type-Moon fighting game Melty Blood uses his cape as his primary weapon.
At low and middle levels, the capes in World of Warcraft often adhere to this trope; the longer the cape, the more badass the wearer is likely to be (as long capes can't be worn by low-level characters).
Blue has a cape in his champion sprite for Pokémon Red and Blue but lacks it in the remakes. Capes, and clothing that can act like capes (such as Cynthia's jacket), seems to be common place for champions as most are depicted with them.
In Malicious, your badass rune-inscribed cape is also your weapon, as it can shapeshift into a bunch of different forms such as fists, swords, wings and more.
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang: Spike's main attack is his cape, which he spins around to whack enemies. If he spins too much at once, he starts to spin out of control and creates a massively damaging vortex - although it leaves him dizzy and vulnerable for a few seconds.
Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although not quite as common as the Badass Long Robe, there is quite a lot of gear that feture these. They're generally meant for the Force using classes, but some are moddable so with a little effort, even a smuggler or soldier could wear these.
In A Witchs Tale, friendly vampire Loue has one, though it's more pronounced in CGs and the Bonus Boss fight with him.
The members of the Society of the Free Mind in An Epic Comic wear these with the symbol on the back.
Mars from Nebula has one, which is constantly billowing dramatically despite the lack of wind in space.
In Bad Machinery after a 10-Minute Retirement Lottie decides to mark her return by trading in her puffer jacket for a cape. The dramatic effect is somewhat marred by it being a blanket tied around her neck, but it is long and black.
Sailor Nothing has the Dark Generals wear black opera capes, although their originals in Sailor Moon wore reasonably practical military uniforms.
Shroud, in the Whateley Universe. But she's animated matter, so she can really make her cape billow, since it's part of her.
Madras, from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, had telekinetic control over cloth (and only over cloth), so he wore a costume that included a ten-foot long cape made of canvas. And he used it as a weapon.
Ruby, of the titular RWBY group, wears a beautiful, insanely long red cape that would be very difficult to walk with in Real Life (to the frustration of many cosplayers.) It's okay, though, because the series' setting runs on Rule of Cool and there's a lot of Dramatic Wind in her trailer to make said cape flap around and look pretty. She even wears it with her school uniform, which nobody comments on.
Several superpowered individuals in Worm wear capes (surprisingly few, given that one term for superpowered individuals is "cape"). Most of them are either notably powerful or otherwise "deserving" of the cape (such as Eidolon), but others (including Skidmark) are pointedly not. At one point, Taylor notes that few capes can actually "pull off" wearing a cape.
The title character of Cybersix wears a long, flowing one that dramatically blows behind her while she's Roof Hopping during the night.
Vampyro of Wakfu has a very valuable self-flapping cape.
Darkwing Duck considers this a basic part of being a crimefighter, along with his hat and mask.
Parodied in Fairly OddParents. Dark Laser tries to lure Timmy to the side of evil and one of his arguments is that he gets to wear a cape and that "chicks dig the cape". Laser himself also does look much more menacing with his cape.
Don't forget Timmy's hero look from the special "Abra-Catastrophe!"
Deconstructed in The Incredibles, along with many other superhero tropes. Edna points out the inherent danger of dragging a long cloth behind you in rather gruesome ways.
In Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders many characters are wearing capes, but only the baddie, Lady Kale, has a truly badass one: huge, flowing in dramatic wind and motion, and used by her in a theatrically evil manner. (Not so much badass when it lands over her head, though.)